Thursday, April 17, 2014

Driven from Tunisia to fight on in France

 Yael Konig, Tunisian-born author and poet

Yael Konig's early memories were of her family's flight as refugees from Tunisia, leaving everything behind. Your dowry will be your studies, said her father when they sought a haven in France, home of equal rights. But France is now also the home of rising antisemitism. In this lyrical article, Yael Konig says she will not abandon France, but will fight on against prejudice. (With thanks: Dominique)  

My grandmother's tears as she hugged my brother to suffocation; beyond, on the tarmac, a 'plane waiting impatiently to reach Marseilles; my mother frozen in the incomprehension of a situation beyond her understanding. These are a few of the images with which I departed the land of my distant ancestors, as it appears my blond locks and blue eyes would testify to my ancient affinity with Judaised Berber tribes led by the mythical Kahena. I was thus leaving in effect so as not to suffer the fate of that worthy but oh so unfortunate queen!

I was a child but my country Tunisia had already imprinted on me its beauty, its intimacy, its influence. Magnificent Tunisia!

They drove me out.

Who were 'they' - 'they' who had caused a break too great to imagine for a girl of eight. The mere thought of 'them' brought shivers of horror to my spine, fear of  redoutable persons unknown who had the power to shake up our personal space and destabilise my parents, those pillars holding up my childhood. 'They' made my mother cry, they fractured her life, stole away her bearings, deprived her of all her certainties.

'They' deprived my father of his life at the heart of his family, wrecked his sense of calm, wiped off his tranquil smile, extinguished his look. 'They' spend their time at best, driving us out, century after century, or trying to kill us. Why? Because we had the dubious priviliege of bringing monotheism to this planet? Because we were the only people who agreed to do so, while others balked?

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